Will America Regime-Change Itself?

By: Rachel Marsden

PARIS — Irony is officially dead. After decades of systemically overthrowing the leaders of other countries, the U.S. may overthrow itself. That’s essentially what impeachment is, and that’s what U.S. President Donald Trump now faces.

It all started with a still-anonymous whistleblower who is reportedly a longtime member of the intelligence community. The whistleblower’s complaint passed muster with the Trump-appointed inspector general of the intelligence community, Michael Atkinson, who not only found it credible but also urgent enough for Congress to be alerted to it.

The complaint pertains to a July call between Trump and newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. After Zelenskiy thanked Trump for America’s “great support in the area of defense,” Trump responded by saying, “I would like you to do us a favor.” (At the time, the Trump administration was withholding Congress-approved military aid from Ukraine.)

Trump then instructed Zelenskiy to engage with Attorney General Bill Barr and with Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who has long been making trips to Ukraine as a “consultant” in between paid junkets to Paris for Iranian opposition rallies.

Trump also asked Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democratic presidential candidate. Biden’s son, Hunter, landed on the board of a Ukrainian energy company in the immediate wake of U.S.-backed regime change in Ukraine. The company, Burisma Holdings, had long been suspected of corruption.

One of the ways that the U.S. surveils foreign multinationals is by threatening corruption charges under U.S. law, then negotiating an arrangement that involves a compliance monitor reporting to U.S. authorities. After the U.S. helped overthrow Ukraine’s pro-Russian president in 2014, the installation of Hunter Biden on the Burisma Holdings board as part of “anti-corruption” measures fulfilled that purpose. If Trump has a problem with this, then it’s the practice itself that he needs to target.

“The future belongs to sovereign and independent nations who protect their citizens, respect their neighbors, and honor the differences that make each country special and unique,” Trump said recently in a speech before the U.N. General Assembly.

If Trump truly believes this, then why was he telling the Ukrainian president to launch an investigation for what appears to be a self-serving political reason? Whether or not Ukraine deems something worthy of investigation should not be up to the president of the United States. Standard procedure would be filing complaint with the FBI, which would then contact authorities in Ukraine — not directing Giuliani, who has no official government position, to handle the matter with all the finesse and discretion of a hippopotamus dancing “The Nutcracker” at the Bolshoi.

Ukraine isn’t the only country where Trump’s meddling threatens to backfire on him. According to the New York Times, just weeks before Trump hosted Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison for the second state dinner of his presidency, Trump called Morrison to request Australia’s help in investigating the origins of the Mueller inquiry.

It’s certainly novel for an American president to use American diplomacy and foreign policy to strong-arm foreign governments into investigating the U.S. deep state for personal political interests. Whether or not it rises to the level of impeachment will be up to Congress.

Meanwhile, these incidents raise the question of what else was discussed between Trump and world leaders that might help account for the sort of puzzling behavior that Trump has exhibited — perhaps most notably, his inexplicably fervent support of Saudi Arabia.

According to the whistleblower’s complaint, Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president was “loaded into a separate electronic system that is otherwise used to store and handle classified information of an especially sensitive nature,” rather than into one typically reserved for such matters. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who both face criminal charges in America for breaching secrecy laws, have both talked about the abuse of the secret classification system by government officials to hide wrongdoing. The actions of this administration are only serving to make their point.

Trump has referred to the whistleblower, who went through official government channels, as a “fake whistleblower.” Snowden responded on Twitter: “Can you believe that the president will criticize you for exposing their wrongdoing whether or not you ‘followed proper channels’? I mean gosh it’s almost as if their concern was never about the law so much as suppressing credible reports of unethical activities.”

He has a point. While Trump is putting himself in political jeopardy with his reckless behavior, he might just end up exposing the entire system.